‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE OUT OF THE BOX 2023

In the world of “Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig, we find ourselves on a journey into uncharted territory. The question arises: Can a doll, with all her idealized features and exaggerated proportions, truly embody feminist ideals? Gerwig’s live-action film delves into this very question, exploring the complex nature of Barbie’s iconic status throughout history. For over fifty years, Barbie has been both adored for the joy and imagination she brings to girls’ lives and criticized for perpetuating harmful gender norms and consumerist notions of femininity. As a cultural touchstone, Barbie reflects our ever-evolving ideas about girls and women, serving as a mirror to our own experiences.

Table of Contents

‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box
‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box

‘Barbie’ Review

Director         Greta Gerwig

Writers          Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach

Stars              Margot Robbie, Ariana Greenblatt, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ryan Gosling, Emma Mackey

Rating            PG-13

Running Time     1h 54m

Genres             Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Gerwig skillfully navigates the complexities surrounding Barbie by drawing upon mythological elements. The movie cleverly reinterprets the Greek myth of Pygmalion, which tells the story of a male sculptor who creates and falls in love with a beautiful statue. In “Barbie,” the power of imagination lies with the girls and women who play with the doll, giving her a semblance of life. This shift emphasizes the importance of sisterhood as a foundation for the film’s narrative.

‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box
‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box

The creative force behind this imaginative world is none other than Gerwig herself. The movie begins with a playful parody of the famous “dawn of man” sequence from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” substituting ape-men with girls. We are then transported to Barbie Land, a vibrant and kaleidoscopic wonderland. Gerwig sets the scene with Barbie, portrayed by Margot Robbie, who playfully embraces her stereotypical image, floating out of her Dreamhouse as if lifted by an invisible hand. This clever directorial choice asserts Gerwig’s command over the film, making it clear that she is in control.

Written by Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach, the story introduces Barbie on a perfect day in Barbie Land, a gated community where humans play the role of dolls. The idyllic setting, with its painted mountain range backdrop, showcases a midcentury modern aesthetic reminiscent of Palm Springs in the 1960s. The production design by Sarah Greenwood and the costumes by Jacqueline Durran contribute to the overall artificiality of this world, simultaneously providing visual pleasure and emphasizing its plastic nature. However, Barbie’s journey takes a turn when her feet, molded to fit high heels, suddenly go flat, a change that is played for laughs but holds significance for the plot and Gerwig’s intentions.

‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box
‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box

The narrative unfolds as Barbie seeks guidance from a misfit version of herself, portrayed by the talented Kate McKinnon. This unconventional Barbie prescribes Birkenstocks and a trip to the real world, leading Barbie and Ken on a journey of self-discovery. Landing in Los Angeles, the duo encounters sexism and patriarchy, which serve as sources of both comedy and enlightenment. Gerwig seamlessly handles the transition between Barbie’s fantastical world and reality, although the weight of the real world’s challenges becomes a sobering reality for the characters and the audience alike.

Mattel, the company behind Barbie, has long grappled with reconciling the doll with real-world expectations. Barbie’s origins trace back to Ruth Handler, one of Mattel’s founders, who sought to create a doll for girls based on her daughter, Barbara. Handler found inspiration in a German doll called Bild Lilli, which had a more adult appearance. Despite initial pushback, Mattel continued to develop Barbie, striving to make her culturally relevant. Barbie’s evolution included diverse careers, expanded product lines, and increased representation through various skin tones, eye colors, and body shapes. Mattel’s efforts to adapt Barbie to changing times have paid off, demonstrating the power of imagination and empowering young girls to see themselves in limitless roles.

‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box
‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box

In the film, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie shines onscreen, subverting the traditional blond bombshell stereotype. Her character gradually breaks free from societal expectations, revealing hidden depths and challenging preconceived notions. America Ferrera’s portrayal of a sympathetic Mattel employee adds warmth and emotional depth to the story, while Ken’s comedic obliviousness and Ryan Gosling’s scene-stealing performance provide moments of levity. However, the focus on Ken and the comedic aspects occasionally divert attention from Barbie and her journey, unintentionally perpetuating the need for male validation.

As Barbie navigates the real world, she adapts and grows, ultimately discovering her place in it. Gerwig skillfully balances joy, nostalgia, and a large ensemble cast to create an entertaining and visually captivating film. While she subtly addresses societal critiques, such as the accusation of promoting consumerism, Gerwig primarily delivers a lighthearted experience, leaving the thorny contradictions associated with Barbie largely unexplored. It is in the film’s finale, marked by a sharp and funny last line, that glimpses of a deeper exploration emerge. Gerwig’s directorial talents shine throughout the movie, leaving anticipation for her future projects.

‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box
‘Barbie’ Review: MARGOT ROBBIE’S MATTEL MOVIE Out of the Box

“Barbie” embodies the delicate dance between commercial interests and creative storytelling. Movies like “Barbie” cannot risk damaging the brand they represent, and viewers may not desire such a departure either, as our attachment to these cultural icons is intertwined with our own identities. Nonetheless, Gerwig successfully navigates within the boundaries imposed by the material, showcasing her directorial finesse. As an audience, we witness the potential for a more profound exploration of Barbie’s narrative, but Gerwig’s talents are undeniable, and we eagerly await her next endeavor, hoping it will fully embody her wildest dreams.

Leave a Comment